In this season of thanksgiving, it’s important to give thanks for friends, family, food, freedom, and all the other blessings we enjoy in this great nation.
But there’s something else you should be grateful for. As Jews, we need to give thanks for the people who speak out on our behalf. This is especially true in the last few years, as we’ve seen the Democratic Party move to the extreme left and work with the mainstream media to target traditional religious values and the State of Israel.
In these extreme times, it’s become a career-jeopardizing act of sacrifice to stand up for what’s right. Public figures see their lives ruined over the most anodyne of opinions. But a few public figures – ones you wouldn’t expect – have taken that risk, and we should celebrate them.
This Thanksgiving, let’s say a prayer for these great Americans (and Israeli) and give thanks for what they’ve done for the Jewish community.
Many Jews would be shocked to learn that this barely Jewish shock-jock is a vocal supporter of Israel. He may have left his own Judaism behind, but Stern has never turned his back on Israel.
Stern was raised in a traditional Jewish house by American Jewish parents whose own parents had been killed in the Holocaust. The SiriusXM radio personality, whose Hebrew name is Tzvi, has largely moved away from Judaism in his adult years: He’s an avowed atheist, sports a number of small tattoos, and is married to a Christian woman. He has also moved Left on most political and social issues: He was a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and he regularly speaks out in favor of abortion and same-gender rights on his show. But there’s one position he’s never compromised on: Israel.
Stern regularly weighs in on his “Howard Stern Show” with words of support for Israel’s right to defend itself, and calls out celebrities – especially Jewish ones – who have made anti-Israel comments or supported the BDS movement. Most recently, he blasted singers Roger Waters and Lorde, as well as actress Natalie Portman, for their stances. He also touts Israel’s stellar record on human rights, as the only democracy in the Middle East, and as one of the first nations in the world to legalize gay marriage and allow women to join the military.
He summed up his position a few years back: “If you’re anti-Israel, you’re anti-American.”
Sometimes even “progressive” wackos do their part when it comes to standing up for what is right. Bill Maher is one of them.
The comedian and political commentator, who hosts HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” champions issues like animal rights, environmentalism, and the legalization of marijuana, and is vocally anti-religion. He even sparked outrage in 2001, six days after the 9/11 attacks, by saying that the hijackers were not cowards.
When it comes to Israel, though, his position is sober and well-reasoned.
Maher has frequently defended Israel’s military actions against Palestinian attacks. During the 2014 Gaza War, when the media was touting the “human rights abuses” and the deaths of Palestinian civilians by the IDF, and criticizing Israel’s use of force, he argued that Israel was still showing restraint in their response and cited the slaughter of Jews in World War II as Israel’s reason for defending itself now.
In 2019, he slammed the BDS movement as another form of Leftist intersectional reverse-racism, and he pointed out the Palestinians’ history of violent attacks against Israel. He explained of BDS, “It’s predicated on this notion... I think it’s very shallow thinking that the Jews in Israel are mostly white and Palestinians are mostly brown, so they must be innocent and correct and the Jews must be wrong. As if the occupation came right out of the blue, that this completely peaceful people found themselves occupied. Forget about the intifadas and the suicide bombings and the rockets and how many wars.”
Though he made news this week when President Trump awarded him the National Medal of Arts, most Jewish Americans would be surprised to learn that Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight has been quietly supporting pro-Jewish and pro-Israel causes for most of his life.
The star of classic films like Midnight Cowboy, Coming Home, and Deliverance has incurred public ire and media attacks by going on record to support President Trump’s policies and speak out in favor of American values.
But apart from being a vocal patriot, Voight has spent decades supporting Jewish charities. In an interview with Mark Levin earlier this year, Voight explained that, as a young man, his father had been given a job at a Jewish golf club in Scarsdale, New York. Accompanying his father to work when he was very young, he learned about the anti-Semitism that had barred “these wonderful people” from joining other clubs and the great community values that had empowered them to make their own accommodations.
“I learned a lot of strong lessons from Dad and I learned about the insanity of anti-Semitism. Growing up, many of my best friends were Jews, probably because I saw how wonderfully these people treated my father, and how deeply he was affected by them. I remember thinking to myself, ‘How can so many people not like these people, just because they’re Jewish?’ He continued, “The Jewish people, down through the centuries, have given us so much. I’ve been enamored of the great legacy of all the great people from the time of Moses down to the present. There is so much the Jewish people have contributed – and continue to contribute – to world information and knowledge, the sciences, medicines, and the arts, as well. I’ve fallen in love with that legacy.”
Today Voight spends much of his time advocating on behalf of Jewish causes. He has also raised and personally donated to Chabad charities, and has even appeared on tape dancing at Chabad Telethons.
When it comes to Israel, Voight has said that it “has a deep meaning for the world, and I believe it is setting a standard for the world.” He has visited the nation a number of times and continues to speak out in favor of its right to sovereignty.
Most Jewish celebrities have no qualms about brushing their Jewish identity under the rug and throwing Israel under the bus in order to get ahead in Hollywood. In particular, the last couple of years has seen a spike in the phenomenon of Leftist media lynch mobs that demand that celebrities denounce various pro-Israel or pro-traditional Jewish stances, “or else” (or else, see their career destroyed). Count Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson among the many who trampled the Star of David in order to maintain their position.
But one who refuses to go along to get along is Gal Gadot.
The statuesque Israeli star of the “Wonder Woman” franchise – and IDF veteran – has never backed down about promoting her nation or her religion.
On social media, she regularly posts of herself and her daughter with their hair covered and lighting Shabbos candles.
And during the Gaza conflict, she sent words of encouragement to IDF soldiers and blame to Palestinian forces. “I am sending my love and prayers to my fellow Israeli citizens,” she wrote. “Especially to all the boys and girls who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas, who are hiding like cowards behind women and children…We shall overcome!!! Shabbat Shalom! #weareright #freegazafromhamas #stopterror #coexistance #loveidf.” Threats of boycotts are no match for this Jewish Wonder Woman.
For years, Roseanne Barr was the number one star of American television. Her eponymous, long-running primetime sitcom was the embodiment of the quintessential working-class Midwestern family. But few realized that this all-American hero was raised Jewish… and it’s taken the controversies of the last few years for her pro-Jewish advocacy to come center-stage.
Barr was raised in Salt Lake City in a family of Russian-American crypto-Jews. Though she attended a Mormon school and learned Christian prayers, she and her family practiced Orthodox Judaism in secret at home. Though she lived a secular life as an adult, she kept in close contact with her observant Jewish parents.
Roseanne was always known for her outrageous opinions and sometimes inflammatory jokes, but her most scandalous move in recent years was her shift towards conservatism. Her increasingly right-leaning politics sparked controversy in the media over recent years, with pro-Trump comments evoking particular ire. In May of 2018, after a seemingly innocent, if awkward, Twitter gaffe, Barr was ousted from the long-awaited reboot of her show. Roseanne and others claim that her ouster was punishment for her pro-Trump and pro-Israel commentary.
Since that time, Barr has refused to be silenced. She spent the last year studying at an Israeli yeshivah for a number of months and launched a pro-Israel, anti-BDS tour with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Criticizing noted anti-Semites Louis Farrakhan and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she said, “The Jews living in Samaria are Israel’s frontline.”
By Emily Cohen